Calculating your company’s carbon footprint is key to understanding its contribution to global warming. It’s also a great first step in identifying ways to reduce emissions across your value chain. To get you started, we’ll walk you through who in a company should be responsible for collecting emissions data, what kind of data needs to be collected, where that data can be found, and how to calculate your emissions.
Who is responsible for measuring your company’s GHG emissions?
If your company has a corporate sustainability officer (CSO) or a head of sustainability, they’d most probably be the one driving the execution of your company’s carbon footprint measurement in addition to its sustainability strategy. In a smaller company, these positions might not exist at all, in which case the CFO or COO might take these responsibilities on, delegate them, or outsource them to a consulting firm. In a larger company, these tasks might be assigned to a sustainability team member or members of another department, such as company officials who oversee compliance issues.
What data do you need to measure your GHG emissions?
After pinpointing who will be responsible for emissions measurement, the next step is to identify the sources of your company’s emissions, otherwise known as your activity data.
Since burning fossil fuels for energy accounts for around 73% of total U.S. GHG emissions per year, thinking about all the ways your business uses electricity and fuel is a good starting point. This could be:
the electricity or fuel you use to power your offices, stores, and facilities
the fuel you use to run vehicles used for transporting goods
the fuel needed for transporting your employees (whether it’s by plane, bus, or car)
You could also consider the energy required in the raw materials extraction processes all the way at the start of your supply chain.
As you record your activity data, it’s important to make a note of the quantities of energy or fuel used and their units of measurement. This will be in miles driven or flown, liters of fuel or water used, kilowatt hours of energy used, etc.
Next, you’ll need your emissions factor data. Emissions factors represent the rate or quantity of GHG emissions that are released due to a specific activity and are measured in tons or kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e or kgCO2e).
Where can you find your activity data and emissions factors?
Your activity data can be found in the likes of utility bills (natural gas/electricity), car mileage, and flights, which are usually contained in your company’s financial management system. In a larger organization, some of this information may be readily available from departments (generally the finance department) within your organization. In this case, you’d identify the employees who have access to your company’s utility bills, water meter readings, leased car mileage, and grey fleet (personal vehicles driven for business purposes) expense reports or mileage used.
Of course, sourcing data from various departments can be tricky and time-consuming on both sides. To streamline the process, you can consider providing parameters to work within, breaking each task up and making the data more manageable to find. For example, you could request the company’s electricity bills for the past year, then move on to water bills, then to leased car mileage information, etc.
Energy consumption information that’s not directly displayed in bills, such as flights, rail journeys, and hotel stays can often be found on third-party websites. Additionally, if you’re wanting to find out more about your upstream emissions, you can look to your procurement staff (who should know everything that goes on in your supply chain) and/or sign up to a collaboration platform that allows suppliers to share certain emissions data with you.
Next, to find an activity’s emissions factor, you’ll need to look it up in an emissions factor database, such as the IEA emission factors database or, if you’re in the UK, the GHG reporting conversions factors provided by the UK government. It’s important to note here that emissions factor databases are often region-specific and updated regularly. For accurate results, you must choose the emissions factor data that corresponds to your region of operation and the year for which you’re measuring.
How to calculate your company’s carbon footprint
Now that you have your activity data and emissions factors you can calculate your company’s footprint. To do so, you’ll take the activity data you’ve collected and the emissions factor corresponding to each activity, and you’ll multiply them to produce your GHG emissions.
For those looking to DIY their emissions measurements, there are a number of online calculators that can do the conversions for you. However, if you’d rather avoid the headache of measuring emissions yourself, there are specialist sustainability consultants and services that have access to detailed databases.